Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest are abiding by the old showbiz adage "the show must go on" by soldiering on with their morning show despite sexual harassment allegations being lobbed at Seacrest. But Ripa's possible reference to a very specific allegation on Wednesday's show was quick to raise some eyebrows.
The co-hosts were engaging in what seemed like innocuous banter about their shoes during "Live With Kelly and Ryan," when this seemingly friendly exchange quickly made headlines.
"Do you want me to put your shoes back on for you? I’m a mom, I can do that," Ripa asked Seacrest after he was struggling to put his shoes back on after the hosts removed them as part of a segment about standing desks.
Seacrest replied, "You don’t mind, do you?" before putting on his own shoes.
Some, however, took the banal back and forth as a reference to Seacrest's former stylist Suzie Hardy's claim that Seacrest pushed her head in the direction of his crotch when she was tying his shoes, with the New York Post and AOL publishing stories soon after.
A source also told Fox News that Ripa is not happy over the way the network is handling the accusations against her co-host.
"Kelly is licking her chops at Ryan’s problems. He’s just another case of a co-host of hers treating it like a part time job," an ABC insider said.
Seacrest's former stylist said she landed her dream job as at E! News in 2007, only to be fired in 2013 after making graphic complaints of his alleged harassment known to HR.
A former co-worker of Seacrest's accuser also spoke to NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday to defend the TV mogul’s accuser, saying he witnessed inappropriate behavior on “multiple occasions," and some publicists reportedly will be steering their clients clear of the lightning-rod red carpet reporter this weekend when he hosts E!'s Oscars special.
Hardy said she took her complaints directly to the network, which declined to move forward with any punishment against Seacrest after a third-party investigator deemed there wasn't enough evidence.
"E!’s investigation was extremely comprehensive and thorough," an E! spokesperson told Fox News in a statement. "Over the course of a two-month process, our outside counsel interviewed more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant and all firsthand witnesses that she provided. The investigator is an attorney with nearly 20 years experience and is highly regarded professionally. Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless."
Seacrest's rep Andrew Baum told Fox News that Hardy initially asked for a payout to keep quiet, prompting Seacrest to announce the investigation publicly on his own behalf.
“It is upsetting to us that Variety is electing to run a ‘story’ about untrue allegations that we were made against my client, after they were told that the accuser threatened to make those false claims against him unless he paid her $15 million. At that time, the claimant threatened to issue a demonstrably false press statement unless she was paid," the statement reads. "Instead, my client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter."
Hardy’s lawyers, on the other hand, have said there's absolutely no evidence to support claims she demanded hush money.
Meanwhile, Seacrest continues to deny all allegations of sexual misconduct and even went as far as to publish a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter under the title “What Happened After I was Wrongly Accused of Harassment.”